Wednesday, September 28, 2016

University Of Michigan Faculty Will Face Disciplinary Action For Ignoring "Preferred Pronouns"

   Well, here we go I guess...
   Just to be clear about what's happening: relatively recently, some lefty / transgender activists came up with some ideas for nonstandard uses of pronouns. Transgenderism became a hot fad on the PC left. Otherwise, it's like a miracle that the number of transgendered folk just shot up like ten thousand percent... And now, with no even semi-serious public discussion of the issues, an almost-certainly-false theory is being declared to be above any reasonable doubt, and the corresponding misuses of the language are being enforced by law and fines in NYC and DC, and faculty at leftier universities are being told that they must conform or else.
   This is straight 1984 stuff.
   Apparently no one is speaking up against this. Almost no one has the guts to say that the theory is nonsense. And look, part of the reason is that they are genuinely empathetic. Nobody wants to risk being an asshole. Part of what's going on is that everyone is trying to bend over backwards to avoid being discriminatory against this newly-minted sexual minority (or semi-sexual-minority or whatever). Part of what's going on is moral caution. So there's something non-reprehensible or even laudable in play.
   But a lot of what's going on is coercion by the powerful academic left.
   And a lot of what's going on is cowardice. People are rolling right over for a fad--a fad in which you can simply declare yourself to be a member of an oppressed minority. And they're rolling over because they are afraid of being called bigots. Which, of course, is virtually the only kind of...well, we can't call it an argument...but...tactical assertion that the PC left employs. The PCs have some crazy theories and they cohere well with a certain kind of anti-realist orientation that is strong in the humanities and social sciences--roughly, relativist and social constructionist views according to which we create facts by believing them, individually or collectively. This is supplemented with some conceptual legerdemain--"gender identity," for example, which is strategically incoherent. Its whole purpose is to make it seem plausible that there is a real property that people have exactly if they believe themselves to have it. That is: it aims to confuse the distinction between genuinely having a characteristic and believing yourself to have it. (Blurring that distinction is very helpful if you're trying to convince people that something imaginary is real...)  And the meaning of 'gender' itself has been so blurred of late--specifically in defense of the desired political goals--that it barely means anything anymore. (The sex/gender distinction used to be very clear and very useful.) And "___ identity" adds on another layer of nonsense.
   Look, I'm starting to feel like a nut here--and needless to say, it's more likely that I'm wrong than that everybody else is. But as far as I can tell, this is all just insane. People I've tried to talk with about it--people who are just kind of going along with it--pretty readily admit that they think it's nonsense. But they seem to think, basically, that it doesn't matter that much, and it's probably better to err on the side of tolerance. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with that...at least not in certain ways. But we're now moving into a phase in which this incoherent view is rapidly becoming official state and institutional dogma, and dissent is no longer tolerated in some places. We're no longer talking about erring on the side of tolerance. We're moving into territory in which we are, bizarrely, erring on the side of intolerance--intolerance for disagreement.
   Seriously, this is all either really nuts and creepy as hell, or I'm just completely and perhaps irredeemably confused about it all. I'm not rejecting the latter possibility out of hand...
   And hell, for the record, again: I don't think anybody has a right to tell anyone how to look or act. If guys want to wear dresses etc., I certainly can't think of any grounds for criticism of them. It's whatever, man. Nothing is less my business than how someone else dresses. But believing yourself to be an X doesn't make you an X, for any real value of X (excepting the possible validity of the Cogito, and maybe a few trick/self-referential cases I'm not thinking of). Dress and act and think of yourself however you want. But dressing like a woman doesn't make you a woman, and making up pseudo-concepts to blur that fact doesn't change anything. People are free to live how they want, and I'll defend their right to do so. But I will not be told that I must adopt nonstandard linguistic diktats that presupposes that a man is a woman if he says he is. I'm not interfering in anyone else's life, but I won't be told what to do. It's just not going to happen.

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